I'm pretty new here but I was struck by the number of duplicate questions about gravitational waves in the wake of the LIGO discovery a few days ago. This lead me to wonder, perhaps not uniquely, whether it might be prudent to have some sort of temporarily sticky FAQ type posts associated with such high profile news. If these posts stayed at the top for as long as the associated news item remained popular and if previous questions on the subject were collated in them that might discourage reposting of the same questions at least to some degree.

  • $\begingroup$ In principle, when you type a title containing "LIGO" you should immediately be presented with a bunch of "possible duplicates". If we ensure that the titles of "not closed" questions are as descriptive as possible, that may do all we need? $\endgroup$ – Floris Feb 16 '16 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ There's also the ligo tag as well $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 16 '16 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ And probably related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/7522 $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 16 '16 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris, Two issues here. First, the scope of questions can be wider than just having to do with the particular experiment, say. E.g. for LIGO there might be general questions about GWs that wouldn't have LIGO in the title/tags. Second, I think once you begin to write your own question, the threshold for looking at other questions that pop up might become higher than it is when you first come to the site. Once you start you have already invested some mental energy; especially, I suspect, for the type of poster who comes hot from having read some news item and doesn't search prior to posting. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 16 '16 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos, thank you for linking the other discussion. I thought there must have been similar thoughts but didn't find any. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 16 '16 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Philo - the moment you type your question title, a bunch of suggestions pops up... I am hoping we are encouraging people to be thoughtful enough to look at those suggestions, but perhaps this is the "a year in the lab can save you a day in the library" crowd... $\endgroup$ – Floris Feb 16 '16 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris The fact that duplicates do appear to pile up would suggest that there is a contingent of posters who do not look at those questions. I'm suggesting that having a sticky post like what I have described might whittle that remaining crowd some more. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 16 '16 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see how sticky posts would help at all. The front page is a very fluid thing, and having posts stick to the top of it would give them much too much exposure. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 17 '16 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty, I would suggest that posters who come here having read some news item might be less inclined to ask basic questions that end up as duplicates if they saw a FAQ post relating to the area of their inquiry right at the top. There have been half a dozen basic questions relating to GWs and LIGO in the last 24 hours alone. I'm not suggesting that the post would stay sticky indefinitely, just for as long as the news item remains popular. I'm not sure what you mean by getting "too much exposure" but if you mean votes/views/other statistics those counts could be disabled for such posts. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 17 '16 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ The site is much bigger than just LIGO - for instance, there's currently only one LIGO question on the front page. Placing a post permanently at the top would be to the detriment of the attention of all the other topics we discuss. The top of the front page is never used for static content, even on ~week timescales, and such sticky posts are completely unheard of on Stack Exchange (which is who you'd need to convince). I'm not saying that some form of temporal waymarker to topical tags would be a bad thing - I'm just saying that sticky posts would be a terrible idea. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 17 '16 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ It's now been almost a week since the announcement. If you look at the top questions for the past week, over 60% are about GWs and LIGO. By this metric they overshadowed all other subjects combined during the past week. Does that not warrant a single FAQ post where most common queries about the topic can be collated? Furthermore, I would suggest that the opposite of what you're claiming might happen: collecting the most common queries about the topic in one place might free the rest of the front page for other content instead of it being inundated by post after post on this one topic. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 17 '16 at 15:01

The system doesn't have the technical capability to do this. There are two options we do have for giving a question more exposure than usual:

  • Put a bounty on it, which causes it to show up on the "featured" tab and to get higher placement in the list of active questions
  • Put a link in the community bulletin, the yellow(?) box off to the right

Neither of these automatically catches the eye of every visitor the way a stickied question would.

Now, in principle this feature could be added by the SE developers, but I suspect they wouldn't do it. Sticky posts are one of those forum-like features that I think they would consider to distract from the core Q&A mission. And they'd be right, on Stack Overflow, but I do kind of see how that could be a useful feature (mod-only, presumably) on smaller communities like ours which actually have major events. Basically, it wouldn't hurt to bring it up, I just don't think there's much of a chance that would happen.

As for the underlying issue of reposted questions: the core problem seems to be that a lot of people just don't read. The SE people have been studying this for a long time. There are a lot of cases where very obviously placed notices don't stop people from doing exactly what the notices tell them not to do. Of course sticky posts wouldn't have to completely block duplicate questions to be worthwhile, but it's quite possible that they would barely make a difference at all.

  • $\begingroup$ It's true that it might not have a significant effect, it's hard for me to predict what would happen and probably a guess of more experienced people would be better than mine. But I feel it might have a noticeable effect. Given that it would be an very easy thing to do coding-wise, it might be worth a try. Also, it might serve better those who come here to ask basic questions following a high profile news story. I wasn't sure how much power the Phys.SE community had over the site features, though, and if it can only be done globally by SE then that makes it more complicated for sure. $\endgroup$ – Philo Feb 17 '16 at 17:36

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